Ever since the Rajbi family home was demolished by Israeli authorities two weeks ago, the children have been staying with relatives, while the father sleeps in a tin hut next to the rubble. This is what it looks like when Israel turns its Palestinians into criminals against their own will.
The path to the Rajbi family home in East Jerusalem’s Beit Hanina neighborhood, or what was their home until two weeks ago, is difficult to find, even with the help of navigation apps such as Waze. After driving off the main road, the half-paved alleyways blend into one another in a maze of dirt tracks. Three of them bear the exact same name. After a few attempts to find the house, Samir, brother of Issam Rajbi whose former home we are looking for, comes to our rescue. In East Jerusalem, this is not an especially effective milestone; the dirt mounds and remains of demolished homes are pile up on the way, every few hundred meters.
According to the Israeli organization Ir Amim, which tracks the goings on in East Jerusalem, there has been an increase in home demolitions in East Jerusalem since mid-2015. 2016 saw a record high of 123 housing units demolished. Since the beginning of 2017, 96 residential units and 59 other structures have been destroyed. For the sake of comparison, the yearly average preceding 2016 hovered at around 50 per year.
Around two weeks ago, on November 22, it was the Rajbi family’s turn. The family is comprised of a mother, a father, and eight children between the ages of 6 and 21. Like many of East Jerusalem’s Palestinians, the Rajbis are trapped by a lack of planning, preventing them any opportunity to legally build their home on their own land. This turns them into criminals against their own will.
“I have been submitting requests to delay the demolition since 2010,” says Issam. “The demolition order applied to the 30 meters around the house. I told them several times that I would demolish those 30 meters by myself. They told me ‘don’t do anything.’ Last Wednesday they came unannounced and began demolishing. I told their work manager that the order only applied to the 30 meters. He responded, ‘don’t even talk to me, I know what to do,’ and destroyed the entire house.”